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From Halal Food & Travel

While the Middle East is vast and diverse, similar culinary traditions can be found across the region. They have been formed by the Mediterranean climate, commercial routes to Europe, Asia and Africa, and the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

An introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine

Much of North Africa, Central Asia and the Balkans have a similar cuisine, influenced by a common Turkish heritage from long-term Ottoman rule on the one hand (Balkans, Middle East, North Africa) and Turkic culture on the other (much of Central Asia).

Iranian food, with its common use in savory dishes of pomegranate molasses, cherries, plums, almond paste and various distinctive herbs and spices, has some commonalities with Levantine food but is in many ways quite a distinct cuisine, and different from the cuisines of the Indian Subcontinent as well.


A plate of various middle eastern foods, including hummus dip, falafel balls, tabbouleh salad, and meat.

  • Meat: Beef, lamb and poultry are ubiquitous. They do not use pork, which is taboo in Islam.
  • Gyros, Halal Döner kebab and shawarma are essentially the same dish.
  • Seafood: is accepted by many religions. Domestic production is rather small, though, and fresh seafood is hard to come by.
  • Chick peas are a common protein source, popular with vegetarians, and the base for dishes such as falafel.
  • Rice is the staple of Iranian cuisine.
  • Bread, especially flat wheat bread (naan in Persian, lavaş in Turkish), is ubiquitous.
  • Couscous and bulgur are similar ingredients, based on wheat.
  • Dates are usually offered to guests in homes and meetings, as a token of hospitality.
  • Common spices are saffron, basil, sage, allspice, mint, and pepper.


Turkish coffee being poured from a copper cezve. Unlike regular coffee Turkish coffee is unfiltered, but surprisingly smooth due to the fine grinding of the coffee beans. Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and reached the West through the Ottoman Empire. Together with tea, it is ubiquitous.

See also